WNBA stars for years have spent their offseasons enjoying in Russian professional leagues, lured by seven-figure paydays that trump their salaries again dwelling.
With Brittney Griner detained in a Russian jail and the battle in Ukraine nonetheless raging, WNBA gamers are sitting out this season. Breanna Stewart, a four-time WNBA All-Star and a former teammate of Griner’s on Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg, defined her resolution to the Associated Press.
“Honestly my time in Russia has been fantastic,” Stewart stated. “But particularly with BG nonetheless wrongfully detained there, no person’s going to go there till she’s dwelling. I feel that, , now, individuals wish to go abroad, and if the cash shouldn’t be a lot completely different, they wish to be in a greater place.”
Instead, Stewart plans to play for the Turkish group Fenerbahce. There, she’ll earn a six-figure wage as a substitute of the roughly $1.5 million she usually earns in Russia, per AP. By comparability, the WNBA’s supermax wage for 2022 was $228,094 with the chance to make extra in bonuses and advertising offers. It’s simple to know why WNBA stars made the offseason trek to Russia on an annual foundation.
But Stewart’s not alone in shunning the chance this 12 months. Per AP, not one of the almost dozen WNBA gamers who suited up for Russian groups final winter plan to take action once more for the upcoming season.
Fellow WNBA All-Stars and former UMMC Ekaterinburg gamers Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot are amongst them. Jones is likewise planning to play in Turkey for Mersin. Vandersloot, who has twin United States and Hungarian citizenship and performs for Hungary’s nationwide group, will play in Hungary. She spoke to the attract of enjoying in Russia below regular circumstances.
“The factor about it’s, we have been handled so effectively by our membership and made such sturdy relationships with these individuals. I’d by no means shut the door on that,” Vandersloot informed AP. “The complete scenario with BG makes it actually laborious to assume that it is protected for anybody to return there proper now.”
Griner was detained by Russian authorities after being discovered with lower than a gram of hashish oil at a Russian airport on Feb. 17. Every week later, Russia invaded Ukraine. Griner’s been detained since and was sentenced by a Russian choose to 9 years in jail on Aug. 4 on a cost of drug possession and drug smuggling with legal intent. She and fellow American prisoner Paul Whelan stay on the heart of complicated diplomatic negotiations involving President Joe Biden amid the backdrop of the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine on the behest of President Vladimir Putin.
The WNBA, in the meantime, has made elevating consciousness for Griner’s plight and bringing her dwelling a precedence. Commissioner Cathy Englebert addressed the problem forward of the just lately concluded WNBA Finals whereas calling Griner’s ongoing detainment “unacceptable.”
“I just lately obtained a handwritten letter from BG, and I’m so impressed by her braveness within the face of monumental adversity,” Engelbert stated on Sept. 11. “We are totally targeted on getting her dwelling safely, and he or she stays such an vital a part of the WNBA household.”
Jones addressed her resolution to play as a substitute for Turkey to the New York Times in August. While Griner’s detention is the first issue, the continuing battle stays a transparent deterrent.
“What would make me really feel comfy about going again to Russia?” Jones requested. “BG being dwelling, initially. USA and Russia relations being higher. The battle in Ukraine being over with.”